Sunday 1 December 2013

Veni, Vedi, ooh...

You may recall that yesterday we were somewhat irritated by ticket touts and their incessant behaviour. That just wasn't going to happen again. The plan was simple, get to the Colosseum early, avoid the queues, ignore the touts.

Especially ignore anyone that says "do you speak English".

Perfect. Now as we intended to be there for 9am when the ticket office opened and it was a 20 minute walk (without distractions) my keen mathematical mind told me we would need to leave at 0840. Stat.

Which was why we left at 9:21... This was down to two things a) the elder offspring being a teenager and hence incapable of waking at stupid o'clock and b) a discussion about whether a coat was a good idea. It was. He went without. The walk though was pleasant and we kept the distractions to a minimum, taking in the sights and talking about what we could see. In Parco del Colle Oppio the elder offspring asked whether a structure we could see was an aquaduct. We couldn't really tell and as it seemed close I checked on Google Maps. Nothing. Except, some distance away, the Colosseum.


It was a bit like that scene in Star Wars where they talk about a ship heading to a small moon before realising it was actually a space station. It's very big. And big enough with little else big to appear to be just beyond some trees when it was really quarter of a mile away.

But first we had to negotiate some iffy looking Roman soldiers that would pose with you for money. It would have looked brilliant if one of them wasn't in wearing a woolen beany with some modern logo or other knitted in instead of a helmet. We declined.

We also ignored every tout as we discussed whether the outside would have originally been clad in marble as the stone and brick work showed signs of of regular patterns. We marched in, we queued for less than a minute, we bought tickets and in we went. As with the Castel Sant'Angelo the elder offspring was free as he's under 18!

It's a pretty impressive place, though the groups on guided tours were less impressive. More like hoardes of stampeding wilderbeests with electronic guides glued to their ears blissful of all that was going on. Which is a shame as they didn't get to linger and ponder the effort needed to build such a place, or even carve a single column. All lost as they moved incessantly to the next spot.

And they paid much more for this.

Still, mustn't grumble. I wonder if anyone gazed in wonder at the ancient graffiti carved in to the marble seating? The only problem was the rain started so I took a parental decision, we either buy a brolly from a brolly tout or back to the hotel for the elder offspring to dry up and get his coat. The hotel won and it wasn't long before we were back as well as laden with goodies from a local supermarket we found. It was picnic o'clock!

Oh, the brolly touts...

They are like rodents, swarming over the dampness of humanity trying to get you to buy their wares. As we walked through the park we saw yet more scurrying desperately towards the Colosseum in the hope of getting a sale. We turned down a lot of brollies.

Snacks eaten we were off again. Next stop the Fontana di Trevi. It was a fabulous walk over, peering down side streets, gaping at unxpected tableau, trying not to be squished by distracted drivers. Any thoughts of being able to dance in the fountain were of course ruined by the two policemen who had the job of stopping people going in. Or climbing on the sides. The area was packed and then. Suddenly. The crowd vanished...

Like some perfect storm it was several guided tours that had arrived at once.

We sat. Chatted. Absorbed the detail of what we could see. And wandered on safe in the knowledge that we were some distance away from the stampede. We had also switched to using GPS to navigate, no, not that one, Gosh Pretty See. This was a technique developed in Contrary Towers to allow you to take apparently random paths to the place you want to go without any hope of retracing the steps later. A bit like our recipes.

This meant we stumbled on a fabulous little piazza, interesting little side allies and even a building that had obviously suffered action during the war. Eventually we wandered in to the Piazza della Rotunda, glanced at the Pantheon (which we had been going to see) and instead stopped to admire the fountain and the surrounding buildings. It was very civilised.

At this point our general plan ran out of destinations so we picked the next stop as being the Isola Tiberina, not so much because we wanted to go there, but because we needed a rough destination.

And what a fabulous wander that was. We passed through the Largo di Torre Argentina and found a fascinating set of ruins set in a hollow. On their own they were interesting. Another English lady passed by and said to her companions "this is like such and such a place, but we have to pay a fiver to see that!". So true. Rome is littered with such sites, never mind the big headline places, look for the gems.

Like this one.

In one spot was the central exedra of Pompey's portico. The place used as senate house. The place where Caesar was assasinated on the 15th of March 44BC. I was a little bit excited. This was where by one act of disloyalty and murder the world changed. It was a pretty big thing. Huge.

I prattled on about this as we wandered on, taking a totally GPS driven route until, by chance, we found a kosher burger place on Via di Santa Maria del Pianto. If you're ever there look for Fonzies and try their chilli burgers, utterly gorgeous.

We realised we were now in the Jewish quarter and kept stopping to look at a myriad of different things. What puzzled us was the police, so many and the numbers increased as we got near the Great Synagogue. I have no idea of what was going on, but goodness there were lots of Police. And TV outside broadcast units.

Whatever, we had an island to invade.

And we did. Isola Tiberina is tiny. I suspect it is inabited because they decided to use it as a stepping stone to span the river, but it's very cute and worth a look. It's a shame we'd eaten as I would have liked to stop in the sole restaurant there!

After a while of chatting about what we could see and the elder offspring seeing how close he could get to the omnipresent Jackdaws, we set off, our destination the Circo Massimo.

Oh dear.

I'm sure it was fabulous in its day but now, well, less so. But that was okay as the adventure was in the journey, this was merely a waypoint. I did suggest to the elder offspring that we have a race. He declined as he obviously realised he would be humiliated by my massive running ability.

Or something like that.

The penultimate waypoint was to be the Colosseum, which was fab as we got to see the outside in a very different light. Though the brolly touts were still busy (no more rain) and had been joined by the trinket touts. We happily ignored them all.

After one final brief pause we headed back over the final mile to our hotel, weary, but I like to think pleased with the day of wandering in a giant circle around Rome. It really is the best way to see any place. Fact.


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